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Internet Commenting Growing Away From Anonymity 384

Posted by Soulskill
from the playing-nice-with-others dept.
An article from the Associated Press makes the case that internet commenting is slowly but surely transitioning away from widespread anonymity. More and more sites are finding that the prevalence of vitriolic comments is driving away new readers, not to mention other, more reasonable commenters. Sites like YouTube and the Huffington Post are leading the charge, requiring users to log in via Google+ and Facebook respectively in order to establish a real-world identity. The Post's managing editor, Jimmy Soni, said, 'We are reaching a place where the Internet is growing up. These changes represent a maturing (online) environment.' "Nearly three-quarters of teens and young adults think people are more likely to use discriminatory language online or in text messages than in face to face conversations, according to a recent poll ... Newspapers are also turning toward regulated comments. Of the largest 137 U.S. newspapers — those with daily circulation above 50,000 — nearly 49 percent ban anonymous commenting, according to Arthur Santana, assistant communications professor at the University of Houston. Nearly 42 percent allow anonymity, while 9 percent do not have comments at all.
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Internet Commenting Growing Away From Anonymity

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  • Whatever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday December 27, 2013 @10:16AM (#45795595) Homepage Journal

    When my local Gannett-owned newspaper switched from a PHPbb type forum to the new Facebook comments, it pretty much killed discussion altogether.

    The irony, of course, is despite the big banner extolling the virtues of non-anonymous commenting ('"it'll make everyone play nice!" Like that's something we give a shit about) the people who actually had anything intelligent to say were the ones who stopped commenting; since it's still pretty easy to create a fake facebook account, trolls abound.

    Seriously, sometimes it's like 4chan without pictures over there.

  • by TechnoGrl (322690) on Friday December 27, 2013 @10:22AM (#45795655)
    .... with far too much time on their hands and far too little psychological stability to completely ruin a forum for thousands. I think many, if not most of us, have seen that happen - one bad apple and all that. Add in the social media awareness of P.R. firms (or special interest groups) who will hire paid commenters to astro-turf a particular point of view and you have a recipe for mass incommunication.

    I welcome restrictions on who can comment and what someone can say such that we raise the signal to noise ratio and tone down the inanity, the crazy and the spam. I think we have left the era of unrestricted speech in much the same way that we once left the era of unrestricted radio communications. Just as we once started licensing in order to make use of the airwaves for everyone, we now have to monitor and moderate in such as way so as outlandish ideas ideas will not be restricted but outlandish people will be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2013 @10:30AM (#45795723)

    Pretty much all arguments against online anonymity boil down to the desire for people to feel fear.

    Particularly, variants of fear of how they will be treated if they write what they think.

    Fear of how their colleagues will react, fear of how their family will react, fear of retribution from those who disagree, etc.

    You wanted to write anonymously? Well, now you have to write under your full name. How are you going to modify what you write as a result, and why?

    I point out that the Hollywood List of McCarthyism was NOT a government policy, but a VOLUNTARY NON-GOVERNMENTAL policy that simply involved banning people from jobs if they had particular views which they voiced. Was this a restriction on freedom of speech? Obviously not - people must count on having reactions against them if they voice objectionable views.

  • by DigiWood (311681) on Friday December 27, 2013 @10:31AM (#45795735)

    People moderate for /. all the time that are not paid. /. is a for-profit business.

  • Usenet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jbolden (176878) on Friday December 27, 2013 @10:46AM (#45795891) Homepage

    Talk about going full circle. Back in the days of usenet your identity for comments was tied to your real name and your professional email. Then we had the anonymous internet with little in the way of ties that came when the AOL crowd got internet. I've often wondered what the internet of today would be like with the policies of then.

    The big difference was that most people worked for academia which is a very open environment where people don't get disciplined for opinions.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday December 27, 2013 @10:49AM (#45795911)

    /. is a for-profit business.

    Not in the same sense as the examples given by the posts above, from the point of view of the man on the street. /. manages to maintain a certain amount of its "community spirit" so people are willing to put that little bit of effort in, but having navigated through the LA Times paywal people are not going to want to give even that much extra ("I'm paying for this, someone else should be making sure it is worth me paying for" would be a common thought on the matter).

    Then again epopel spend time making reviews on Amazon and the like (the good reviews that is: the bad ones are peope with an axe to grind so that isn't quite the same) so perhaps it could work, though they'd still have the problem of the moderation being "off message" and to avoid that they'd be back to paying someone (thsi time paying them to moderate the moderators).

  • 3 Possible Roots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by retroworks (652802) on Friday December 27, 2013 @10:52AM (#45795947) Homepage Journal

    1) Potential for greater liability if the Site Owner tries to moderate but occasionally lets one slip.

    2) Potential for greater profit if linked accounts are worth more to advertisers

    3) China cracked down on anonymity (article from a year ago []) and we can't be left behind

  • by twocows (1216842) on Friday December 27, 2013 @11:05AM (#45796057)
    Discussing issues with others, hearing critical feedback, better informs you about the issue. It's unlikely that any one particular anonymous comment is going to directly affect the world at large (though it might), but that's not the point. The point is to have a more informed and intelligent population, one that is able to come to their own conclusions, see and admit the flaws in their own reasoning, and possibly reach a consensus on an issue that is better than where we were before. Discussing a controversial topic at length in an anonymous setting, you might one day be confident enough in the truth of your position to speak on it publicly, to take a stand on an issue when it matters. And others may do the same.
  • Re:Nonsense. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday December 27, 2013 @11:14AM (#45796155)

    Yes. And it should be understood that the politicians and various political and corporate entities that want you to shut up on occasion will use the same tactics or worse to silence you if they can find you.

    This is currently a great frustration for them. They have tried to do this to a few people and publicly lamented that they just couldn't find these people to shut them up.

    We let this happen and they will come after us at some point.

    Further... the whole thing is really being spearheaded by corporations that are finally having to admit that their vast user databases are mostly full of junk data that isn't actually worth anything. They've tricked their investors into thinking they had a lot of valuable information there... and possibly it is valuable... but not 100 billion dollars of value. And that is their problem.

    So they're trying sweeten their databases by filling them with real information.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday December 27, 2013 @11:24AM (#45796263)

    Not only that, but it also serves a very valuable purpose: It allows people to have "unpopular" opinions, only to realize that they may be more popular than they thought.

    I don't know if anyone here ever played the RPG "Paranoia". It stopped being fun when it became too close to home for comfort. It was a world under total surveillance where mutants and members of secret societies were hunted. The fun part now was that EVERYONE was a mutant and EVERYONE was member of some secret society. And everyone thought they're a tiny minority and everyone else is out there to hunt them down, because that was the generally accepted dogma and everyone was happy when someone else was being hunted because it means that, at least for now, they're not on the hunt list.

    Sounds familiar? It should.

    What anonymity allows in the context is that you can find out that you're not alone. That you're not the "odd man out" if you don't think the generally accepted dogma and creed is the all encompassing truth but that basically everyone thinks like that. Only the ones that hold power and media do not.

    Of course, this is a threat to those that have power and media outlets in their hands. If you can convince everyone that they are alone in their "resistance" against the official opinion, they will conform. If you can threaten them with indirect or direct repercussions if they disagree, they will fall in line, even if they could in theory voice their opinion. Just lock up everyone who dares to speak out and people will think that that guy and they are the only 2 in the world who thought like that.

    If people can voice their concern anonymously, they will soon find out that they're not alone. Not by a long shot. Actually, they will find out that the official opinion is backed by nobody but a tiny minority.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2013 @12:01PM (#45796597)

    Yes, and this site is quite obviously a different case than a general media outlet like a major newspaper or CNN. Try to implement /.-like moderation on one of those sites and I guarantee that it would be swamped with sock puppets[...]

    You mean, unlike the sock puppets who seek to get /. to outlaw anonymous posting by constantly trolling every thread with "hosts file", "golden girls", "frost piss", and other stupidity?

    A lot of the companies whose fortunes are tied up in a business model which requires them to associate your demographics and opinions with your actual identity tend to piss themselves every time it looks like the /. moderation system is still working, and still allowing anonymous posting. I have absolutely no doubt that most of those trolls are being paid, and paid well, for attempting to destroy the economic viability of anonymous postings everywhere they are currently allowed.

    After all, you can't get a site to buy into single sign-on, be it Facebook's or Disqus' or Google+'s, unless you first get them to buy into the idea that a sign-in is necessary in the first place. And you can't charge an account and paywall the entire Internet using your micropayment mechanism, unless you can tie those payments back to an account you are able to then debit, which is where all this crap is headed, if they get their way.

    Welcome to the new cable TV! First, we sold it to you as having no commercials, and then when you were already paying, we slowly crept the commercials back in so that the very thing you were paying for in the first place was no longer true, and now we'd like to convert you to pay-per-view for everything, and, oh yeah, there's still going to be commercials.

  • by lgw (121541) on Friday December 27, 2013 @04:10PM (#45799381) Journal

    I regularly post views that the groupthink finds unpleasant, and I find the moderation system works pretty well. Getting modded "-1 I disagree" happens here, but most moderation is not of that sort.

    Even global warming the biggest hotbutton issue right now on /. I think, will see +5 posts on both sides of the discussion. Most sites have people falling all over themselves to agree with one another, and dissenting voices often outright deleted and banned.

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.